macbook pro disk locked

Hi,
a friend of mine gave me his macbook pro to work on after trying to get help at apple store without any luck. The problem is that i think when he was trying to upgrade os to mountain lion the process locks the disk and the i seem to remember this happened to another person i knew last year.  Apple says the disk is bad but i ran the disk utility and says fine.  I wish i could remember how we got the other macbook to get thru the upgrade but the disks are viewable in the disk utility after i hit the alt(option) key at startup where i then entered the recovery area.  This person has time machine backups but they are from 2yrs ago and he wants to be able to keep his pictures on the existing drive.  Any ideas?
dankyle67Asked:
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strungCommented:
Have you run Repair Disk from Disk Utility in the recovery partition? Also, when in the recovery partition, what does Disk Utility show for the S.M.A.R.T. condition of the disk?
dankyle67Author Commented:
I'm in the Disk Utility now and status of S.M.A.R.T. is verified.  I remember seeing a smaller partition which says recovery so would i be able to use this?  I'm kinda confused as to how to use the source and target part of the utility.  I also have his time machine as mentioned but its from 2yrs ago so hoping not to have to use that.
serialbandCommented:
If you have another Mac, you can boot this one to Target Mode and copy off all the User data.  Then you can erase the disk and reinstall the OS, then copy back all the  data.

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dankyle67Author Commented:
Yes i have another macbook so what are the actual steps to do the procedure you mentioned? In other words, would the other person's mac need wireless access to my mac?
serialbandCommented:
Do you have a thunderbolt cable?  Boot it into Target mode by holding down tduring boot.  Connect the 2 macs then you can copy the files.
strungCommented:
The smaller recovery partition is an emergency boot partition you can boot into to repair the main partition or replace the OS.

If you boot while holding down Command-r, you will boot into the recovery partition. Once you have done that pull down the utilities menu to Disk Utility and run Repair Disk on the main (larger) partition. If it completes and shows the disk repaired, see if you can boot normally.

If not, boot into the recovery partition again and re-install the operating system. (Do NOT to an ERASE and Install.)
serialbandCommented:
I would generally make a copy of the data before doing the recovery, just in case.  What strung describes should not wipe any data or configuration.  It only restores all Operating System files.
David AndersTechnician Commented:
Firewire Target Mode  (now called Target Disk Mode)
https://www.google.com/search?q=firewire+target+mode
Firewire Mac to Firewire Mac
Firewire Mac to Thunderbolt Mac (w adapter)
Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt Mac
Hold "T" key down at startup
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